The Green Haven Prison Program will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a conference and reunion on April 4, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Vassar’s Green Haven Prison Program, founded in 1979 by Lawrence Mamiya, professor of religion and Africana studies, will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a conference on Saturday, April 4, 2009. The free conference will be held in the Aula, Ely Hall, and open to the public from 1-5pm.

During the conference, the 10th annual reunion will bring current and former Vassar students involved in the Green Haven Prison Program together with 30 to 40 formerly incarcerated men and women to discuss a number of issues regarding prison policy and reform. Vassar faculty and community activists involved in prison issues will also attend and participate in the discussions.

The Green Haven Prison Program (with a second program founded six years ago at Otisville medium security prison) enables Vassar students to participate in dialogue groups with incarcerated men. Over the years, the groups have discussed a variety of topics including: domestic violence, fatherhood, family, communication skills, victim awareness, current events awareness, housing and jobs in the outside community, and community reentry. One of the main goals of the program is to prepare incarcerated men to reenter the outside community.

Vassar students learn about conditions in prison and the criminal justice system while the incarcerated men learn about changes in the outside world. The men appreciate the knowledge Vassar students have shared with them during their visits. And, for a number of students, the experience has transformed their lives and altered their career paths.

New York Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Fischer will give the keynote speech at 11am for reunion guests and conference participants. Please note that this is not open to the general public.

Commissioner Brian Fischer leads the nation’s fourth-largest state prison system, overseeing an agency that employs over 31,000 workers and houses approximately 60,000 inmates in 69 correctional facilities plus a 902-bed Drug Treatment Campus.

He began his career with the New York State Narcotic Addiction Control Commission in 1968, working as an Aftercare (Parole) Officer. In 1975, he transferred into the Department of Correctional Services with the title of Assistant Director, Drug Treatment Center. During his initial years with the Department he served as a Deputy Superintendent in several correctional facilities.

In 1991 he was appointed Superintendent of the Queensboro Correctional Facility and a Supervising Superintendent for the New York City region. He coordinated the development of the agency’s work release program and the conversion of Queensboro into a pre-release, re-entry facility.

In 2000, he was appointed Superintendent of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility and continued to serve as the Supervising Superintendent. While at Sing Sing he implemented, along with the Office of Mental Health, a comprehensive transitional pre-release program for inmates with serious mental health needs. In addition, he championed several non-traditional programs, some of which have become models for other prisons; college, theater, and domestic violence and parenting skills for men.

An adjunct professor at both Pace University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Fischer is also vice president of the New York Corrections Historical Society, a member of the American Correctional Association, the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents, the New York Corrections and Youth Services Association and, until his appointment as commissioner, the New York State Association of Correctional Facility Superintendents. In 2006, the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents recognized his work at Sing Sing, naming him Warden of the Year.

Commissioner Fischer serves on the board of two non-profit organizations; Hudson Link for Higher Education, a program that provides college education degrees to individuals incarcerated in prison; and Puppies Behind Bars, a program that allows inmates to raise puppies that are then trained to be Seeing Eye dogs and most recently, as special service dogs for disabled veterans.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, March 27, 2009